Christophe Berra has admitted that he is hurting after being omitted from Alex McLeish’s Scotland set-up.
As Celtic full-back Kieran Tierney and Rangers centre-half Russell Martin last night withdrew from the squad because of injuries, to be replaced by Celtic’s January recruit Jack Hendry, the Hearts skipper revealed he would love to be involved in this week’s friendlies against Costa Rica and Hungary.
The centre-back, who is widely considered one of the main contenders for Player of the Year, having impressed in his first season back in the Scottish game after several years playing in the English top tiers, was a surprise absentee from the squad. While some assumed that a niggling ankle injury had influenced the decision, the 41-times capped Berra, pictured, who played the full 90 minutes in Hearts’ 3-0 win over Partick Thistle on Saturday, revealed that was not the case.
“He [McLeish] phoned me like he phoned a few and said he was going to try the younger ones. Football is about opinions. If he fancies me, if he doesn’t, there’s not much I can do. But I’ve always given my all for Scotland. All I can do is play as well for Hearts and keep up our good record defensively. That’s all you can do. When you first get the call you’re a wee bit disappointed. You learn the older you get to take it on the chin and just get on with it. He and his backroom staff want to go somewhere else and that’s fine.”
But with other experienced players, such as Charlie Mulgrew and initially Martin named, the 33-year-old confessed being gutted that he had not made the cut, especially as he has always reported for squad get-togethers even when not making the team. “I did [always turn up] and I had a lot of mates saying why do I bother because people thought I should be playing,” Berra added. “But I’m not the only one. There are another 11 or 12 sitting on the bench or in the stand who think the same.
“It’s down to the manager and their philosophy, what they think, the games they watch, friends of friends who might say a player is good. I might be in a hotseat one day. There will always be people disappointed.”
Having missed out at times during Gordon Strachan’s reign, Berra was reinstated in the team as they almost salvaged a World Cup play-off place and he is hopeful that, despite missing out on the upcoming friendlies, he can force his way back into the reckoning in time for the Euro Championship qualifiers.
“Well, we’ll see when that comes, when it’s down to the real bread and butter when points are on the line,” he said. “That’s when any manager earns his money.”
Tierney missed Celtic’s 0-0 draw with Motherwell yesterday and his manager Brendan Rodgers said: “He had a slight issue with his calf towards the end of last week. He won’t be travelling to Scotland.”
Martin, despite lasting all of Rangers’ defeat by Kilmarnock on Saturday, has been struggling with a back injury. “They’ll assess me and it’s how my body responds,” he said before last night’s withdrawal.